I was slow for most of the 15 years I spent as a triathlete. Not until 2014 did I become fast. People who knew me when it took 12-14 hours to finish an Ironman have asked, “How is it possible that you went from finishing in 12-14 hours to 9 1/2 hours?”

Determining how to transform begins by asking specific questions, and these questions can be applied to any endeavor. I wanted to transform from slow to fast, but these questions cross over to other things, like going from fat to fit, lazy to motivated, bad to good, poor to rich.

Step One. Ask yourself:  Do I look like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

The first thing I did was take a hard look at the “fast guys.” Did I look like them? The answer was “no.”

This compelled me to action.

I lost 20 pounds. Losing 20 pounds was simple, but not easy. I had to stop drinking. (Alcohol was not keeping me heavy. However, the nutritional choices I made after a few pints of Guinness certainly kept me more plump than necessary. I’m referring specifically to how good a can of Pringles—the whole can—tastes while enjoying a good beer buzz, or how great a few hotdogs taste at a ballgame. I didn’t make these poor nutritional choices when I was sober. But give me a few drinks, and pow! I’d eat everything.)

I also shaved my head. And I shaved my legs. (Body hair has been proven to slow people down in the water and on the bike.)

So in looking at what you want to become, one question is very simple: Do you look like “them?” (What actions can you take to close the gap?)

Unfortunately, after losing weight, I still did not look like them. Physically, I was getting close. But then I looked at their equipment. They had aero wheels, aero helmets, and carbon fiber time-trial bikes. I did not.

Step Two to the transformation:  Do I work like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

Asking myself this question led to a realization: many of the fast guys I met were training 20-25 hours per week. I was training 10-15 hours per week.

Step Three to the transformation: Do I think like _________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

I thought it looked cool to look like you’re suffering. And sure, maybe that’s cool. But what’s cooler? The way these guys make it look so easy. (I thought going sub-11 hours in an Ironman was fast. My friend Keish, who’s always been a fast guy, is disappointed if he doesn’t go sub-10. For him, sub-10 is not a PR. It’s simply an expectation.)

Step Four to the transformation: Do I execute like ___________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

For me, the question was simple: Do I race like them? In simply comparing my transition times to the fast guys, there were enormous differences. They transitioned with urgency. I would dilly dally. (In life it’s encouraged to stop and smell the roses. In triathlon, not so much).

The answers to these four questions—and the subsequent changes I made—are the “magic formula” to the transformation I enjoyed.

Of course, my contention is that these sorts of questions are applicable to any endeavor. If you want to improve at something, simply have a look at those who are succeeding. What are they doing differently? And why? Answer these questions, see how the answers relate to you, and then adapt accordingly.

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